As Steve Nash continues to struggle with his health this preseason, it appears that the 18-year veteran is becoming more open to the idea of playing limited minutes per game and possibly sitting out the second game of back-to-backs.
Nash in the past couple of weeks has dealt with a sore left ankle that he injured during the Lakers’ Oct. 10 game against the Sacramento Kings at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and a stiff neck that he hurt in practice prior to Tuesday’s game against the Utah Jazz.
On Thursday he described his ankle as “good enough” and said that his neck is feeling a little better. Nash dealing with health issues has been a consistent theme so far in his Lakers’ career as he suffered a variety of injuries last season.
This list of injuries includes suffering a small fracture to his fibula in his left leg when he collided with Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard that caused him to miss 24 games and a hip injury that was followed by nerve damage to his right hamstring that forced him to miss the last eight games of the regular season.
As for his status for next week’s regular season opener on Oct. 29 against the Los Angeles Clippers, Nash said expects to be ready to play.
“I do,” Nash said. “I played in the last game when I probably shouldn’t have. I am just trying to get an extra little rhythm and some reps, so I hope by the end of the weekend I should feel better.”
Although he is continuing to experience injuries this preseason, he is trying to work through them and be on the court with his teammates.
“My attitude is to embrace it and it’s a different in my career,” Nash said. “I used to get out and run up and feel like a world beater, and now I have to get myself in some sort of form to go out and execute for my team. It’s a different frame of mind and different challenge. Like I said I am up for it, I am positive about it, I feel optimistic and I am inspired teammates, who are a great group of guys. I am just going to keep pushing through.”
But at this point in his career, Nash knows at his age he will continue to have a constant battle with staying healthy throughout the season.
“It’s both. I think there’s no doubt that age ultimately wins all battles, but at the same time, I’m not going to concede anything,” Nash said. “I still feel like I can do everything I’ve always done. It’s just a matter of trying to get my body in a place where I can do it consistently and recover and be able to find that health to execute it. And that’s the challenge. I’ve worked a ton this summer to put myself in this position and I think I’ve got a chance to overcome a lot of it, but there is a day-to-day struggle.”
Although he is dealing with minor injuries, Nash has played in the preseason for some much-needed in-game reps but has done so with caution to not harm his health and ability to be on the floor as much as he can once the regular season begins next week.
“Yeah, I would have played (if it were a regular season game),” Nash said. “Right now its a little bit of a gamble. I wanted to play because to get a little bit of rhythm. I have not played in games for five months but at the same time I don’t want to over do it to where I put myself and the respective team out for a couple of weeks. I am just trying to play in the middle where I can get some reps, but at the same time, not put myself on the bench for a couple weeks.”
Kobe Bryant also shares the same belief that Nash needs to work through his injures but must at the same time keep in mind the regular season is just days away.
“He’s been a trooper and he’s been trying to get out on the floor and practice with the guys as much as he possibly can,” Bryant said. “But at the same time, you want to see him, especially now that the season is right around the corner, try to knock out as much of it as he possibly can going in Game 1.”
These early injuries have also made Nash more open to the idea of sitting out the second of back-to-back games, if it ultimately benefits his health and the team by not having a fatigued or an ineffective Steve Nash on the floor who will hurt his team’s chances of winning games.
“I think that’s what Mike would like to do and Mitch has even talked about but we will see how it goes. I don’t want to be having that frame of mind or that I am going to look for every opportunity to get out. We will see what the season entails and how I respond,” Nash added.
What has also contributed to him becoming more open to the idea is his confidence in the play of Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar behind him. Both players have shown their capability of being impactful players on the floor when Nash needs a break. This especially goes for Farmar, who in the team’s last preseason game on Tuesday against the Utah Jazz scored 20 points off the bench.
“For sure,” Nash said. “I have a lot of confidence in Jordan and Steve, and the team we have depth in a lot of areas. I know I believe in this team.”
Head coach Mike D’Antoni also sees injuries becoming a constant issue with his 39-year-old point guard but he maintains that same confidence in Farmar and Blake.
“He might. We just try to manage them as best as we can but we did add Jordan Farmar who is going to give a lot,” D’Antoni said. “So we’re trying to cover our bases a little bit but again you don’t substitute a Nash, Kobe or Pau. They are still going to have to carry a lot of the load.”
Over the past couple of weeks Pau Gasol has voiced his concerns over Nash’s health and his inability to participate fully practice at this point in time, but D’Antoni does not see that as a concern as he knows Nash is doing everything in his power to be on the court.
“Yea I can understand that (concern),” D’Antoni said. “But a couple of things is that one, you can’t worry about it because it’s out of your hands and two, Steve is going to do everything he can to be ready to go. Whether you worry about it or not its your personality but I am betting on it.”
D’Antoni more than anybody within the Lakers organization knows the type of player Nash is and his work ethic. So even with him being up in age, D’Antoni has no concerns about his point guard experiencing any long-term health issues this season.
“Like I said I understand the concern. I think everybody has,” D’Antoni said. “He is 39 and it is what it is but again one, its a privilege to play with him or coach him and two, he is doing everything he can, so I am not worried that. Whatever happens, happens.”
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